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Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* 2:24 pm - House Speaker Michael Madigan has just informed the House that he will call them into session beyond tomorrow’s scheduled adjournment if the Senate passes the constitutional amendment for recall on Thursday. Members are wondering if they need to be in town before the final 3rd Reading vote. It appears, of course, that they do.

Madigan was asked whether he would propose any amendments to the Senate proposal. He said he didn’t plan to do so, but he didn’t know what the sponsor - who will likely be Rep. Jack Franks - will do.

Madigan pointed out that if this proposed constitutional amendment is amended in the House, then it would have to be read three times in each chamber again. Sunday is the deadline to get the measure on the November ballot.

*** 2:25 pm *** Madigan was just asked by Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) why this proposal has become such a high priority. Madigan replied that, at least among House members, “This has become such a priority because of Governor Blagojevich.”

Ouch.

* 2:39 pm - Rep. Jack Franks spoke to reporters a short time ago about the Senate’s recall proposal, which he calls “a better bill” than his own. He said he won’t amend the bill. Here’s the audio….

[If the audio player isn’t working for you, click here to download the mp3 file.]

* 2:43 pm - John Patterson at the Daily Herald no longer has a “bloggy type thing.” He’s got a real blog now with comments and everything. His latest post

A “deal” on what supporters call major ethics legislation was supposed to be announced at 1 p.m. at the Capitol. But that announcement has now been pushed back to 4:30 p.m.

Some Republican supporters weren’t informed of the delay by the Democrats — who run the show in Springfield.

The GOP’s initial reaction was not a positive one.

Now the question is whether the delay is procedural or fatal.

…Adding… Rep. Fritchey just said that the ethics deal is still a deal. He’ll be holding a press conference with Sen. Harmon, House GOP Leader Cross and others at 4:30 this afternoon. The 1 pm press conference unveiling the deal was delayed so Fritchey could make extra sure that the deal was really a deal.

* 3:03 pm - The SJ-R has more

Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said details of the ethics package wil be released later today.

He described the latest version as taking the best elements of separate House and Senate proposals that were both aimed at banning campaign contributions from contractors who do business with the state.

* 3:26 pm - With about an hour to go before the press conference, negotiators are still “tweaking” the compromise ethics bill. So, things could still go wrong, but the train appears mostly on track.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


A complete lack of trust

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* One thing I hear a lot from the governor’s allies and flaks is, “I don’t know why you don’t trust us.” I usually just chuckle and walk away, but they do need to be reminded of the depth of mistrust they sow on an almost hourly basis

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a mass transit funding law that promised more money for downstate bus and public transportation systems.

They are still waiting on the money.

As part of the Chicago transit bailout law approved in January, lawmakers also threw in $50 million in new funding for downstate systems with the goal of boosting the amount the state reimburses them for expenses from 55 percent to 65 percent.

The increase would allow some existing downstate transit systems to expand their routes and services and would enable other communities to create new systems in areas that aren’t served by public transportation. […]

When asked on Tuesday about the status of the proposed funding, Katherine Ridgway, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s Office of Management and Budget, would only say the administration is reviewing the numbers.

* The Blagojevich administration has been pulling stuff like this since Day One. Last year wasn’t the first time a budget deal was broken. Blagojevich broke one in the summer of 2003 - his first year in office. The governor negotiated and agreed to a budget and then vetoed out a bunch of stuff after the GA had passed the legislation and left town.

It’s been all downhill since then.

* The big issue now is the capital plan. Last year, the governor vetoed almost all House Democratic line items from the budget, and, as you are well aware, the Senate refused to override the vetoes. Now, the governor believes that the House Dems should just trust him to sign a capital bill without changes and distribute the funds in an even-handed manner.

“Oh, sure we’ll do it,” they always say, with a dismissive wave of the hand. “He’ll have our word.”

And that word means what, exactly?

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


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Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

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Ozinga claims to raise big bucks

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* This first bit isn’t huge news because he’s had a virtual lock on the slot for weeks


Martin Ozinga III will end weeks of speculation and officially kick off his campaign at 11:30 a.m. today as the Republican candidate in the 11th Congressional District.

* But a new e-mail from Ozinga’s campaign is interesting…

Marty Ozinga announced today, 4/30, that he has raised $408,235 from nearly 300 contributors since he began raising money at the beginning of April. The total above does not reflect any personal contributions made by Marty himself.

* Early fundraising is usually the easiest because the cash is often from friends and family. We also don’t know how many of those early conributors maxed out, and, therefore, will not be allowed to contribute again.

* Halvorson has been raising money as well…

From Jan. 17 through the end of March, Halvorson raised a net $432,970 and ended the period with cash reserves of $673,023.

Ozinga has said that he won’t put in more than $350,000 of his own cash, beyond that level would allow his opponent Debbie Halvorson to accept larger campaign checks.

…Adding… There’s some useful info in this Associated Press story

“My life, both in work and in community and in my family, is all based on a simple philosophical foundation that I exist first of all to honor and glorify God and then secondly to serve the crown of his creation which is our fellow man,” Ozinga said. […]

On the issues, Ozinga said he opposes raising taxes and supports President Bush’s tax cuts. With motorists besieged by skyrocketing gasoline prices, Ozinga said the country needs to work hard at promoting the research and development of alternative energy sources, everything from nuclear power to clean coal technology.

He calls the Iraq war “a frustration and a disappointment that we’ve been there for so long.” He said there needs to be timelines for the Iraqi government to show improvement, but not timetables for what the American military does in that country.

“I would bring the troops home when we win, meaning when we accomplish our … goals,” Ozinga said, adding he would rely on the advice of military commanders there.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Video Competition in Illinois Has Already Created More Than 1,400 New AT&T Jobs

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

AT&T has been introducing its cable alternative, a cutting-edge service called U-verse, in parts of Illinois since January. Thanks to the support of Attorney General Madigan and General Assembly members who fought for the Cable and Video Competition Law, consumers in Illinois are beginning to enjoy the benefits of competition.

Senator Clayborne and Representative Brosnahan sponsored this because people were tired of annual rate increases and poor customer service with few alternatives. They, along with Senate President Jones and House Speaker Madigan, understood this was an important vote for our consumers and our economy

Since it was signed by Governor Blagojevich on June 30, 2007, AT&T has created more than 1,400 Illinois jobs related to U-verse’s rollout. They have also started on a more than $1.3 billion investment plan in its Illinois network over the next several years to bring new services, including state-of-the-art television, to consumers. AT&T has consistently rolled out new services to as many customers as possible - as quickly as possible. AT&T is working hard to deliver on that promise with U-verse, which is currently available in parts of more than 230 communities.

This legislative collaboration is convincing evidence that the public and the private sector can create a framework that encourages investment and innovation at a time when our economy can certainly use a boost.

AT&T has clearly demonstrated it’s committed to connecting people to their world. These connections are made possible thanks to elected officials who’ve created a new era of opportunity in Illinois.


More info here.

- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      


Here we go…

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* The push is on

The leader of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority said Tuesday that the agency has solved a seemingly intractable puzzle: How to purchase and renovate Wrigley Field without using any state or local tax dollars.

“We are working on a proposal to present to Tribune Co. that will allow ISFA to acquire and fully restore Wrigley Field, as well as add parking and neighborhood improvements, without using any public tax money, either state or local,” said former Gov. James Thompson, chairman of the agency.

The bid will be delivered “shortly,” Thompson said.

* So, how will it be financed?

[Thompson] would only say what the new plan would not include: “No PSLs [personal seat licenses] . . . No sales tax. No amusement tax. No McCormick Place [restaurant] tax. No taxes of any kind. I know that will disappoint the Sun-Times editorial board. But it’s the best I can do,” he said.

“Obviously, a deal done without tax money has a better chance of being approved than a deal based on tax money. Now the Sun-Times editorial board will be for it, right?”

Even if no tax money is directly used, the impact on state and local tax coffers should also be examined. Zell is a financial wizard when it comes to taxes and Mother Tribune is no slouch either. Will this involve some sort of tax break for Zell?

* Thompson did offer this hint

Thompson hesitated when asked if his new plan would rely on the controversial sale of naming rights to the 94-year-old shrine of Major League Baseball.

Tribune CEO Sam Zell’s plan to sell naming rights to Wrigley to generate as much as $400 million over 20 years has met with stiff resistance from baseball purists and die-hard Cub fans. “I would say yes. But we would look for a naming rights deal that does not displace Wrigley Field.'’

I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but there will be a real problem convincing legislators to vote for a bill that would change the name or look of Wrigley Field.

* Thompson wouldn’t say how much the state would offer to pay for the decrepit ball park, but he did manage an Olympics tie-in, which is something that everybody is doing in Chicago these days…

Getting a deal done “will show the Olympic committee that we know how to do these things in Chicago,” [Thompson] said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Recall Roundup

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* I live-blogged this yesterday, so let’s do a quick wrap-up of what we already know and move from there

Senate Democrats on Tuesday advanced their own version of a proposal to let voters remove the governor and other elected officials, a move critics said was aimed at throwing the recall effort off track by running out the clock.

The competing Senate recall legislation would add local officials such as judges, mayors and county board presidents to the public servants who could be booted.

It also would require both the governor and lieutenant governor to be recalled together rather than just one or the other. That’s because they run together as a team in general elections, said Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), the new plan’s architect.

* Quinn’s reaction

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Blagojevich critic and a strong proponent of the recall measure, criticized that provision in committee testimony. “I don’t believe I should have my record judged'’ based on the governor’s record, Quinn said. But he supported the measure anyway, calling it “a moment in history'’ for Illinois.

* There’s no guarantee yet that this will pass

All 22 Senate Republicans figure to support the plan. But the question will be if or how hard Jones works to keep at least 14 of his members off the ballot initiative to keep it from getting the necessary 36 votes to move to the House.

* And there’s also a disagreement on when Gov. Blagojevich might be recalled if the voters approve it in November…

…the soonest Blagojevich could be recalled would be the 2010 primary, said Sen. Dan Cronin (R-Elmhurst), the amendment’s chief Senate sponsor.

Quinn, however, said a gubernatorial recall could occur as early as “late summer or early fall” of next year.

* There is some hope among Blagojevich allies that this recall proposal might lance the boil and stop or slow talk of impeachment, and Quinn seems to be helping that along

Despite allegations of potential wrongdoing, it’s too early to launch impeachment proceedings against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, his running mate said Tuesday.

As talk of impeachment echoes through the Statehouse, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said he’d rather see the state Senate give voters the opportunity to recall elected officials.

“I think its time to trust the people,” Quinn said.

* On a related note, Michigan has a recall law, and some angry voters in that troubled state are raising money and organizing to recall the House Speaker and other state legislators….

A group aiming to recall state lawmakers for approving tax increases reports raising more than $100,000 since late October.

The recall effort recently has focused on House Speaker Andy Dillon, a Democrat from Wayne County’s Redford Township.

* There’s also a recall move against Detroit’s mayor

Wayne County officials approved language for a recall campaign against Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, green-lighting the second effort to oust him since the $8.4 million whistle-blower scandal broke this year.

* The Senate’s somewhat about-face on recall was due in no small part to exploding voter anger. And that helps explain why a constitutional amendment to do away with the state’s flat-tax mandate failed so miserably yesterday. Here are a bunch of stories on that front…

* Illinois Senate rejects sliding income tax proposal

* Legislators reject possible tax overhaul

* Senate rejects income tax amendment

* Senate Dems Chicken Out on Income Tax Hike Measure

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Witness: Rezko shared cash with Blagojevich

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* Take some caution with this one

Tony Rezko asked an official in Gov. Blagojevich’s administration to pay him $25,000 so Rezko could use the money to keep construction contractors from putting a lien on the governor’s home, federal prosecutors said in court today.

Prosecutors got a judge’s OK for Ali Ata — former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority — to be allowed to tell jurors in Rezko’s corruption trial about the cash payments.

Rezko told Ata “this is going to be embarrassing to him [Blagojevich]” if the contractors put a lien on Blagojevich’s Ravenswood Manor home, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton told U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.

* The reasons you should be careful about assuming too much are several-fold, including this one

“Ata claims that he gave or lent cash to Rezko on four or five occasions . . . and estimates the total cash disbursements amounted to $125,000,” Rezko’s lawyers wrote. “Ata alternatively stated he did not know what the cash was for, then proceeds to say he supplied $25,000 in cash to pay certain contractors who were threatening to put a lien on another individual’s [Blagojevich’s] home.

“Ata recounted these alleged cash transactions in a suspiciously dramatic way, including meetings on ‘narrow streets’ in Chicago with ‘black plastic bags’ of cash.”

First, this is Tony Rezko allegedly telling Ata why he wanted the money. We don’t know if Rezko told the truth to Ata or if Ata concocted the story to help hi stay out of prison. And even if Rezko did tell the truth, there’s no guarantee that Blagojevich knew about it.

* But the judge will allow the testimony…

[Judge St. Eve] said such testimony was relevant because it showed the relations between Ata, Rezko and Kelly.

She did bar the prosecutors, however, from bringing in such atmospheric embellishments as “black plastic bags” and “narrow streets.”

* And, of course, there’s more

Prosecutors said Ata will say Rezko extracted four bribes from him, including the one to avert the lien. Another involved a $50,000 payment that Rezko allegedly said was destined for Blagojevich fundraiser Chris Kelly.

Ata said the money was passed in cloak-and-dagger fashion as he and Rezko drove to Kelly’s house in the southwest suburbs. “The cash is in the car when they go down there,” Hamilton said. “And when they leave Mr. Kelly’s house, the money isn’t there any more.”

Kelly, who faces criminal charges in an unrelated case, denied the allegations through his lawyer. “If Mr. Ata is saying he gave large amounts of cash to Mr. Kelly for political purposes or to get some state position, that is simply incorrect,” said Michael Monico, Kelly’s attorney.

Notice there was no denial that Kelly might have received cash for other purposes.

* And the governor’s statement

“We can’t comment on alleged conversations that the governor was not a party to,” spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said today. “As we said last year, the Blagojeviches personally paid for the work to renovate their 14-by-20 family room out of their checking account.”

Man, this is crazy stuff.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* State may sue school in sex harassment case

An order by the state Human Rights Commission paves the way for Attorney General Lisa Madigan to sue Loop Lab School for $40,000 that the school and a former official owe an ex-teacher who was sexually harassed on the job.

* Option 5: Garfield Park

* NIU won’t raze Cole Hall

* 450 U of I Extension jobs on the chopping block

“If I lose my job, I’ll lose a job I love, and very few people can really say that and mean it,” Nelson said. “I am angry and upset that what’s happening politically is affecting my personal career choices and my personal passion.”

* Parking cops on booting binge

At least 1,500 more parking ticket scofflaws and red-light runners have had their vehicles booted — and 12,000 more Chicago parking tickets have been written — in the first three months of a $1.5 million technology upgrade.

* Cook County Realtor hired by Stroger demoted after questions of his qualifications

* Stroger to skip Palatine secession meeting

Citing “political grandstanding by village council members,” Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said Tuesday he would not attend a meeting in Palatine on Wednesday night scheduled to discuss county services provided to residents.

* No-show Stroger’s disdain for suburbs

* Cook Co.’s public defender fights to keep his position

* Media take R. Kelly appeal to Illinois Supreme Court

* City receives $153M in federal funds for traffic

* ID law disenfranchises voters

* Medill’s dean says he made a mistake

* Fremd High takes top honors in state journalism competition

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   10 Comments      


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Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

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PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
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